If you were scrolling through Walt Disney World feeds last weekend -- or maybe you were actually IN Walt Disney World -- it was probably hard not to notice the countless number of costumed people with bibs on their shirts. Maybe you saw them waddling around the Magic Kingdom with their medals on. Maybe you were at Animal Kingdom for Extra Magic Hour and confused as to why a bunch of sweaty people with noisy watches suddenly appeared in line for Expedition Everest. Did you hear a lot of cowbells and whistles outside of your room at the Yacht Club? That's because this weekend, my friends, was Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend! (Cue magical music.)
2019 marked the 26th anniversary of the first Walt Disney World Marathon, and since its inception, it has grown beyond just 26.2 miles - there’s now a half marathon, 10k and 5k option, too! And unlike other races, each event is spread out over the whole weekend, giving you a chance to earn more than one medal...
If you’re REALLY looking for a challenge, you can take on the Goofy Challenge (the half AND full marathon) or the Dopey Challenge (ALL FOUR RACES! 48.6 mi!) -- and yes, you’ll feel as Goofy and Dopey as its sounds.
If you’ve got friends who’ve participated or if you have witnessed it in person, it's hard NOT to be impressed and inspired. A huge percentage of the participants have raised thousands of dollars for worthy causes - including the beneficiary of the weekend, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training (those are all the folks wearing purple and green TEAM jerseys)...
The entire weekend is geared toward first-time walkers and runners, wheelchair participants, cancer survivors, the young and the young at heart. You’ve also got a field of competitive runners, aiming for a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon, or are looking to raise awareness, like actor Sean Astin (and yes, people do cheer “RU-DY! RU-DY!” when he runs by).
Are you feeling inspired, interested in participating in this or one of the many other runDisney races, but have NO IDEA where to start? We’re here to help! First, let’s break it down, using the WDW Marathon weekend as an example:
Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend
Basic information: WDW Marathon Weekend is typically the first weekend in January AFTER New Years, depending on when it falls. For 2020, it will be January 8-12. Registration opens April 16, 2019 for the 2020 race at 10 am EST. (see graphic below for other current race dates and registrations.)
Distance options: There are four distance options available, each on a separate day (5K on Thursday, 10K on Friday, half on Saturday, and full marathon on Sunday.) You can register for just one or any combination of events. If you choose to participate in the half AND full marathon, you will be a Goofy Challenge participant. If you choose all four, you will be a Dopey Challenge participant.
Courses: All races start and finish in the Epcot parking lot. The courses vary depending on distance, but here is a basic primer:
5K: A fun loop around Epcot at sunrise!
10K: Backstage of Epcot into World Showcase; head over to the Boardwalk and take a stroll by the Yacht and Beach Club, and back into Epcot.
Half Marathon: An “out and back” course that takes you to and through the Magic Kingdom. You’ll run by all three monorail resorts plus some of the golf courses before making your way back into Future World.
Full Marathon: This course takes you through all 4 parks PLUS ESPN’s Wide World of Sports! You’ll start in a similar fashion as to the half marathon, then make your way out and through Animal Kingdom. After Animal Kingdom, it's some mileage over resort highway into ESPN's Wide World of Sports, and then you’re on your way to Hollywood Studios. After passing the Swan and Dolphin and the Yacht and Beach Club resorts, you make a grand tour of the World Showcase, give Spaceship Earth a high five, and cross the finish line!
Price: It depends on which race you register for and how you sign up. If you register on your own (not through a charity), the cost is as follows*:
Half Marathon: $188
Full Marathon: $188
Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge: $385**
Dopey Challenge: $585***
*2019 pricing. Pricing may vary each year.
**This is technically more expensive than doing each race separately, BUT you get an extra medal for doing the Goofy Challenge as an official participant.
***This price is reflective of the cost of all four races, plus you also receive the Goofy AND Dopey Challenge medals.
Your registration fee includes the following: your official race bib, a t-shirt and finisher’s medal, on course support (including medical tents), and dedicated runner transportation to and from your Disney Resort Hotel before and after the race.
The benefits to participating with a charity group, per runDisney:
Guaranteed race entry is part of a travel package, including nights at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel and specially priced Walt Disney World theme park tickets (must be booked through the charity)
Guests can select any Walt Disney World Resort hotel, including specially priced rooms at select Event Host Resorts
Options to add dining and other amenities
Satisfaction of making a difference through fundraising and running for the organization of your choice
Once you've signed up:
With a Charity
You’ll likely hear from a person at the organization who will give you all sorts of details- training info, ways to raise money, etc - but if you’re feeling anxious, be proactive and reach out to them! Ask all the questions you need to. They’ll help you every step of the way!
On Your Own
Awesome! Look at you, you endurance event tackling human. Now its time to get training! We are BIG fans of the Jeff Galloway Method, which is the official training method of runDisney. You can find more information and how to get started here (including downloadable programs!). Jeff and his family run the event each year and you can even meet him at the Expo! (We have before. He’s a SUPER nice guy!)
You’ll also want to book your accommodations ASAP and get your park tickets so you can start to book your FastPass+’s! We cannot recommend staying on Disney property HIGHLY enough - you’ll get dedicated transportation, have access to Cast Members to answer questions and the added benefit of booking FastPass+ early than offsite guests so you can get on rides without waiting in hours of lines. (BTW, If this feels overwhelming, we’re happy to take care of everything for you! We’ve participated in plenty of these weekends and can provide experienced recommendations - plus we’ll do all the reserving for you! All you have to do is show up. Reach out to us here!)
Q: My family wants to come and cheer me on. Is that cool?
A: TOTALLY cool! This is a great event for families to tag along and support one another. runDisney offers multiple packages to be part of the official chEAR Zones, but there are plenty of other ways to get out there and cheer! Check back for our more detailed post about this in the coming weeks.
Q: Hold the phone - the race starts at 5:30 a.m.!? What the Flounder?!
A: Yep. And you’ve gotta be at Epcot before then.
Q: Um. Please explain why I need to be up so early!
A: Sure thing! Safety is Disney’s #1 priority when it comes to these events, and they take great care in making sure you have lots of safe roadways to run on! That said, you ARE running on the resort roads - you know, the ones you travel on when you’re on the Magical Express, or on a theme park bus. The parks still need to open and operate for other guests, so that means you’ve gotta get started before everyone else wakes up! The first corral goes off at 5:30 a.m. and they go in waves after that. Disney - and we! - recommend that you arrive at Epcot by 4 a.m. to use the bathroom and get to your corral in time. BUT this also means you’re done early - and have more time to visit the parks! (When you’re stretched, showered, and rested, of course. ;))
Q: There’s a local race in my hometown. Why should I do a runDisney race over that one?
A: Here’s the thing - if you even REMOTELY like Disney, you will love runDisney races. Where else can you run THROUGH Cinderella’s Castle?! They are fun, (mostly) flat, full of music and character photo ops and cheer squads, and lots of on course support with water stops and medical assistance. Disney has been doing this for 26 years (and counting!) so they know their stuff, and they want you to have the best experience possible! That said, there are some great benefits to smaller, local races. Why not use it as a training run for your Disney race? :)
Look - there’s a LOT that goes into signing up for your first runDisney event, but we’re here to help you every step of the way, and hope that you’ll feel a little more encouraged to sign up after reading this! See you on the course real soon!
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